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O.C. Supervisors Define Dangerous Dogs

Two attacks within a 36-month period could get your dog labeled as dangerous.

County supervisors put a little bite into the war on dangerous pets. Credit/Patch file
County supervisors put a little bite into the war on dangerous pets. Credit/Patch file


By City News Service

The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a new version of an ordinance that would define how dangerous dogs are labeled.

The first reading of the ordinance was approved 3-2, with Supervisors Todd Spitzer and Shawn Nelson, the chairman of the board voting no.

The supervisors have approved several drafts of the ordinance, and Tuesday's revision will require them to vote on the proposed law again next month.

In December, the supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that would designate vicious canines as level 1, 2 or 3.

Several residents appealed to the supervisors to strip out language defining canines involved in dog-fighting operations as dangerous. They argued that some dogs can be rescued and rehabilitated and should not be permanently saddled with the level 2 label.

A Level 1 dog is one that on two occasions during a 36-month period does anything that puts someone or another animal in a "defensive, protective or fleeing" position. A dog could be categorized as Level 1 if it bites a person without provocation, leaving at most a minor injury.

A Level 1 dog could also graduate to a Level 2 canine if the bad behavior persists.

A Level 2 dog is one that makes an unprovoked attack on four separate occasions, forcing someone or another animal to avoid injury. The Level 2 designation also could be applied to dogs that have caused a severe or substantial injury to a person or other animal.

Dogs used for fighting or trained to fight will be given the Level 2 designation.

A Level 3 canine is one that kills someone or causes a severe injury such as maiming. Police or military dogs on the job are exempt.

Today, the supervisors adopted language from the state law governing dogs seized from fighting organizations. When the dog's owner is convicted, the law gives authorities more power to impose restrictions.

Spitzer had trouble with the caveat that the dog's owner must be convicted of a crime, because there could be occasions when the pet owner cannot be brought to justice.

Ryan Drabek, director of Orange County Animal Care, assured the supervisors that dogs won't be swept up because a neighbor files a complaint.

"We have to have evidence that supports our decision" to label a dog dangerous, Drabek said. "We have to be able to prove ourselves to an administrative hearing officer and, if necessary, to Orange County Superior Court."

If a pet owner objects to the agency's designation of their dog, then they can ask for a hearing before an administrative officer. Then they can appeal to a judge in Orange County Superior Court.

Drabek emphasized that the county does not have any issues with fighting dogs anyway.

Nelson said it was necessary to give the county some control over questionable dogs.

"Look at the alternative," he said. "There's nothing to stop an average Joe from walking out of a kennel with a potential ticking time bomb (otherwise)."

Over the weekend, Placentia police fatally shot a dog that attacked two people.

Police were called about 5:35 p.m. Saturday about two loose pit bulls attacking people at the Placentia Place Apartment Homes at 310 S. Jefferson St., according to Lt. Eric Point.

A female dog was caught, but a male dog charged a Placentia police officer, who shot it  with a single round. As other officers tried to catch the dog, it charged the officers, prompting other officers to shoot it dead, Point said. Two victims were taken to area hospitals.    

TELL US IN THE COMMENTS: In what ways is this proposed ordinance right or wrong? 

April Josephson January 29, 2014 at 07:25 PM
Martin, thank you very much for posting this. A few points—it will only apply to unincorporated areas of OC, unless and until the contract cities, including RSM and Lake Forest bring it before their city councils to authorize enforcement within their cities, which contract for animal care services with OC Animal Care. I provided community input to those working on this ordinance, and am happy to see it moving forward. It is a substantial improvement over the current ordinance, which only has two levels. For those concerned with unnecessary euthanasia, this ordinance is written to limit those classified for euthanasia, by creating a third classification for only the most severe cases.

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